Buckling down on buckling up - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Buckling down on buckling up

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The overall message is one students at Jackson State University have heard before, the do's and don'ts of getting behind the wheel.

"Don't drink and drive. Designate a driver. Avoid distracted driving and buckle your seat belt every time you get in the car," said Department of Public Safety spokesman John Kalahar.

It's that last point which state safety leaders say is becoming more and more concerning, especially for minorities.

In 2010, 641 people were killed in car crashes in Mississippi, 242 of them were African- Americans, making up 38 percent of all traffic deaths last year. Of those, African-American deaths, 65 percent were drivers who didn't wear their seat belt.

"Mississippi is a very rural state and the largest no seat belt use is in rural areas, we're trying to get that word out," said Mississippi Highway Patrol Director Colonel Donnell Berry.

According to the Department of Public Safety, average seat belt usage in Mississippi is about 82 percent, with women at a higher rate than men. When it comes to race, the state's black population, men and women, is below the average.

"Information has not flown and transcended into these particular communities," said National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration contractor Luther Perry. 

Perry says the lack of driver education in minority areas has a big impact on why folks may not be buckling up. Perry is even working with Mississippi's historically black colleges and universities to try and fill the gap.

"We've asked them to develop and implement a traffic safety program on campus to where it resonates," said Perry.

By teaming up with state agencies and universities, Perry hopes seat belt usage will increase among at risk communities, but knows it starts with a plan of action.

"We have to do a better job in terms of making sure all the information gets to that particular culture and group of folks," said Perry.

Additional outreach events are also being planned across the state to help drive home the message of buckling up.

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